With late cancellations wreaking havoc through the division, Jockin' Jeeves made his move, blowing away the competition with an outstanding performance.
I knew he was the man to fear. I've been saying for a while, ever since I hit top spot, that Jockin' Jeeves is the Gentleman whose scores I check first. The two-time League of Gentlemen winner, the man who has only ever finished outside of the medals once, the man whose transfer risk-taking brings the potential of huge reward, and the man who has influenced me in life more than any other, he is the one who keeps me up at night. The man whose ability and sense of inevitability when he gets that fabled Juggernaut momentum can destroy any manager is the manager I believe is the greatest threat to my hopes of completing the King's Quest, and he showed why in Gameweek Seventeen, with an 85-point salvo that moved him into second place, slashing my forty-point cushion over him to just thirteen points in the process.
This is where the game, in the immortal words of Jeeves's assistant manager, Hot Rod, gets real. Anyone can take the lead at the top at the start of December. The question is, can they stay in the mix over the Festive Frenzy, when players are rotated and fixture lists are eviscerated, when the time to think is minimal and the punishment for errors is maximised? [With five matches already cancelled for Gameweek Eighteen, with my squad down to nine players, two of whom are injured,] with the pressure building up gameweek upon gameweek, we're about to find out what I'm made of, and I'm not sure whether I'm up to the challenge. That doubt, more than anything, is my biggest obstacle to overcome.
It's a doubt that the big man will continue to feed, given his stunning score in such difficult circumstances, and my own impoverished performance. In a gameweek which saw several matches fall at the wayside, the Townhead Gunner kept his cool, with his only move in the transfer market being to switch Livramento to Tierney. The seven points the Arsenal defender secured brought with them a sense of satisfaction at seeing Livramento's zero-pointer, and helped hammer home his authority in a gameweek which saw every one of his outfield players, bar Antonio, produce returns. And yet, I was still left grateful that it wasn't even more emphatic, with twelve-point Broja denied entry to the gameweek because of Antonio's presence. Those ten missed points could well prove so crucial, and they are the only thing that leave me with even a modicum of respite from the pressure.
In response, my team was abysmal. Until the final match of the gameweek, there was a very real threat of exiting the Eliminator, so poor was my score. While the points from my Liverpool players were gratefully received, they did nothing to stem the flow of the Rap Rob Roy. Having deliberated between Watkins, Broja and Dennis to replace Toney, the decision was made for me due to Broja being an injury doubt and my rule of waiting until the deadline to make transfers rendering Watkins unaffordable. Seeing Watkins then hit twelve points hurt. Seeing Broja overcome his injury to hit twelve points hurt more. Seeing Dennis's match abandoned just over an hour before kick-off, with no previous indication it was a possibility, hurt the most. Now, I'm stuck with a striker about to go to the African Cup of Nations, who may well not even play before he does, depending on when the call-ups occur. Like choosing to start the season with Barnes over Benrahma, this decision has hindered my chances considerably, and now I face the prospect of either starting Gameweek Eighteen without a full team or taking my first hit of the season.
The striker situation wasn't the only kick in the teeth. In a gameweek where every single Manchester City player bar one secured at least one return, the one on my team went off injured for one point. In a gameweek where Chelsea conceded yet again, Jeeves saw Alonso be replaced before the goal with the clean sheet intact. Antonio, my striker, ended up playing right-back, while my substitute, Saint-Maximin, went off injured. Bowen did nothing, Gallagher did nothing, and the final kick in the teeth was Ramsdale being booked for time-wasting. Now, with all these cancellations, I can't even bring in a third Manchester City player right before a plum fixture, because they play on the second day of the gameweek, and I need to play it safe. The only positive to emerge is that I finally have an excuse to sell Antonio, with his game being cancelled. His game against Norwich. The game that starts such a plum fixture run that I opted for Bowen over Mount. Bowen, who has done nothing in two gameweeks and now can't play, over Mount, who has thirteen points in those two gameweeks and has a game this weekend. Oh, and who Jeeves has in his team. It was just one of those gameweeks.
It feels like Gameweek Eighteen will be another huge challenge, with Jeeves having - with his free transfer - a full complement of outfield players, and Go Cartin, now just 26 points behind me, having a full team. I also know neither man is scared to take a points penalty to strengthen their squad, which leaves me with a huge risk-reward dilemma. With the knocks to Saint-Maximin and Bernardo, I have just seven players I can rely on, and one free transfer to make. That free transfer - assuming nothing changes before the deadline with regards availability - will be to replace Antonio with Watkins, giving me eight players guaranteed to be fit, and another two possibly available. Watkins is the signing that makes sense; he was always the plan, after freeing up the extra funds needed, and he now plays in the first match of Gameweek Eighteen, which should minimise the risk of a late cancellation. The question is whether to take a transfer hit, and it's one I cannot answer at time of writing. I want to keep Gallagher and Bowen, so the only option to sell is Livramento, and it would be a big gamble to take a hit for a defender. Of course, if Bernardo or Saint-Maximin are ruled out, the picture changes considerably, and a tactical switch from Bernardo to Foden has huge appeal. I'll just have to see how it plays out.
The Cup Chronicles
I wasn't the only Gentleman to see their hopes and dreams put under huge threat by the rampaging Jeeves, as Ginger Ben's Gentlemen's Classic ambitions look to have been destroyed after a thirty-point thrashing by the Townhead Gunner. While the signing of Foden proved beneficial, the decision to take a hit for Pukki always looked like trouble, and so it proved, with that transfer costing him two points. Costing him even more points was Coufal, whose red card resulted in a -2 score that the Ginger One could ill afford. While few managers would be able to keep in touch with Jeeves in such a mood, these issues meant Ginger Ben had no chance of doing so, and now faces the prospect of playing the second leg with several players absent.
Also in trouble is The Ox, who saw seven of his squad score two points or fewer. The absence of Walker from the Manchester City team was particularly galling, with Bernardo's injury compounding Ox's problems. The biggest issue he faced, though, was the bizarre decision to sign Kane amidst a Spurs Covid crisis. Even if the striker's fixture had gone ahead, his record this season is abysmal, meaning the signing always looked like leaving Ox in trouble. Amplifying his folly was seeing Big Steve bring in twelve-point Watkins, while the Butcher owning two clean sheet-keeping goalkeepers was almost a taunt of The Ox's inability to field a man between the sticks. The real difference-makers were Alexander-Arnold and Jota, who are in irresistible form yet somehow cannot find their way into The Ox's squad; their combined eighteen points providing a considerable amount of the Butcher's 25-point cushion. The Ox has made his name on his cup form this season; it's going to take a sensational comeback to keep his Classic run alive.
Gentlemen's Classic Semi-Final results, First Leg:
Big Steve 70 - 45 The Ox
Ginger Ben 55 - 85 Jockin' Jeeves
Even if he does save himself in the Classic, The Ox is out of the Eliminator, with his score of 45 being the second-lowest of the gameweek from those remaining in the competition. He is joined in his departure by Hitman Hodgson, who was only able to find 41 points. For large parts of the gameweek, it looked like I was heading out of the competition, only to be saved by Trent and Jota, who neither of the Eliminated own. It goes to show how tricky it is to stay alive at this stage of the competition, and with games being cancelled left, right and centre, surviving the final gameweek of double-Eliminations next time out will be an almighty challenge for the remaining Gentlemen.
There was little movement in the lower reaches of the table, with the only riser being Flash Funk. It's been a rough season for the Funkmaster, which led to him walking away from the game for several weeks. He returned with a Wildcard in Gameweek Sixteen, and he reaped the rewards this time out with a 73-point gameweek featuring starring performances from Ramsey, Broja and captain Alexander-Arnold. Higher up the table, there were climbs for Who Horner, Mack Daddy McMahon, Private Parvesh, Daredevil Daisy and Killer Kev, who lies in 21st place. Between eleventh and twentieth, several teams moved up or down a place, but what is particularly notable is how Deadly Daz, in seventeenth, is now just a point behind Grinchy Vogt in sixteenth, a situation few would have predicted when the Dazzler took a -28 in Gameweek Ten, at a time when the Grinch had just lost top spot. At the top of the Irrelevants is Hitman Hodgson, whose disaster of a gameweek sees him fall two places, leaving him out of the Elite and twenty points off getting back there. With a strong field behind him, including Terminator Tris, defending champion Dan the Dragon, Ash the Bash and Red Hot Rob, it could well be that things get worse before they get better for the Hitman.
The Elite is still separated into two sections, with Big Steve and King Ding still having ground to make up on the rest of the chasing pack. They end Gameweek Seventeen just over forty points off a sixth place currently held by Ginger Ben, who suffered a four-place fall in the table following a 55-point total. He was the only manager to lose ground on me this gameweek, but whether that is evidence of struggling with the pressure or merely an unfortunate gameweek in tough circumstances remains to be seen. The fall in the rankings makes the situation look more dramatic than it actually is, with only three points lost on the top of the table. With the top six increasingly bunched together, he could climb back up just as quickly as he has fallen. The Chancellor moved back up to fourth, above Mighty Mouse and level on points with Go Cartin, but all three newcomers to the division will be reeling from seeing the power of Jockin' Jeeves in action. Now in second place and just thirteen points off the top, this is the closest the Juggernaut has been to first place for nearly three seasons. Given the strength of his squad ahead of what is now Blank Gameweek Eighteen, we could well be just one gameweek away from the Rap Rob Roy reigning supreme.
The Man Who Would Be King
Of course, I will not give up my position without a fight. Despite a disaster of a gameweek, I am the first Gentleman to break the 1100-point barrier. More importantly, I am still thirteen points clear, meaning I could take three hits and still be top. I highly doubt I'll do anything that dramatic, but I need to get my decisions correct to maintain my place at the top. I suffered a fall in the overall rankings, but remain in the top-100k, with an 8k fall leaving me at 83,841. These gameweeks are going to come, and I can't predict when they will. All I can do is keep putting myself in a position to maximise my points potential, and keep fighting to stay in contention. This has been a rough gameweek in the King's Quest, but it is just one gameweek. Let's see what the next one brings, and take it from there.
That concludes the round-up of Gameweek Seventeen, which saw Jockin' Jeeves unleash the full force of the Townhead Gun, which saw Ginger Ben fall under the rapid-fire assault, and which saw the Lords withstand the barrage, if only barely. Ahead of Blank Gameweek Eighteen, may all your transfers be successes, may all your arrows be green, and may the FPL Gods be in your favour.
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The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps
The FPL Nightmare II:
The Crying, the Hits and the VAR Probe
The FPL Nightmare III:
The Lawes Rank Redemption
The Complete FPL Nightmare Trilogy:
The Epic Quest From A 4.8m Rank To A Top 0.1% Finish
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All Lawes wants is to win The League of Gentlemen, yet the FPL Gods are bastards that conspire against him.
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